To bit or Not to Bit? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 32 Old 09-20-2010, 12:23 AM Thread Starter
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To bit or Not to Bit?

Can I get some opinions on riding with a bit versus riding bitless?

I have found that my horse has a very low palate and can't use a bit. That has prompted me to do some research and I've started hearing/reading/watching bit horror stories. I know that horses have been ridden in bits since forever, but I never knew how difficult riding with a bit could be for some horses. It makes me wonder if it isn't inhumane. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking riding with a bit. I'm just wondering how other people feel about it.

I watched some videos online and, especially within the English riding arena, it seems to be commonplace to see horses mouthing the bit and looking wild-eyed while being ridden on a very tight rein. I noticed in some of the jump competitions people just hit and hit and hit the horse when it refuses a jump or tosses it's head. I also watched some comparisons with horses being ridden in a bit and then the same horses being ridden in a bitless bridle. I was amazed that I, an amatuer, could actually see a noticable difference in how the horses handled. I know how my horse acts when she has a bit in her mouth and I know how she acts when I ride in just a halter. I've ordered a bitless bridle and can't wait to see how that goes. When I first nixed the bit and rode in the halter (I know, not too smart) I could not believe how much more relaxed she was and how much more comfortable I felt. There was just so much less tension between us. I do understand that I'm not a pro, in fact I'm still learning the basics, but my trainer performed the same test with the same bit and halter and got the same result.

Anyway, if you have an opinion or experiend please share with me.

Last edited by sdellin; 09-20-2010 at 12:25 AM.
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post #2 of 32 Old 09-20-2010, 12:32 AM
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Bits can be inhumane. If the rider is heavy with their hands, or uses the reins to punish the horse *shudders* then yes, they are horrible extensions of the rider's hands. By the same rule, bitless bridles can be just as cruel in heavy hands. If bitless is what suits your horse best, then go for it. But a bit is an inanimate object and therefore cannot be cruel on it's own.
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post #3 of 32 Old 09-20-2010, 12:36 AM
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It all depends on the horse and rider. Some horses just don't like bits and some horses, like the ones you mentioned being wild eyed on a tight rein, have a problem with the way the rider is using their hands and therefore using the bit. As I said it all depends on the horse. If you want to go bitless DO NOT get a nurtural bitless bridle. I am very unhappy with the way it performed for me, when you used the reins they did not release. You could try a hackamore if you are against using a bit on your horse, be careful though as if you pull to hard it can break a horses nose. Also make sure you have it adjusted right, ask someone very knowledgeable if you need help.

I have seen many differant reactions. My friends horse loves jumping in a hackamore, he feels less restricted. My other friend can get the best bend and roundness in the world in a hackamore. My horse on the other hand absolutly hates the hackamore, threw a huge fit when I rode him in it but was good with a bit. It depends on the horse. There are many horses being ridden at Spruce Meadows or in top jumping competitions in hackamores. Keep in mind if you show in Dressage you are NOT allowed to use them in competition. I also don't knowif you can use them for x-country. Show jumpign you definitely can.
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post #4 of 32 Old 09-20-2010, 01:10 AM Thread Starter
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I looked at the nurtural bitless, but it didn't impress me. I ordered the Micklem Multibridle. I can be used with a bit or in three different bitless configurations. I also ordered an English hackamore to try that out. I ordered a bit called "Pee Wee Bit" because it has no link and is a very thin bar. I'm concerned about the thinness of it, but it's the only non-jointed bit I could find that didn't look like a harsh mullen mouth. Bella's mouth is just too small. I've tried single and double jointed snaffles in various sizes. I'll post a follow-up after I try the new stuff on her. I try not to be heavy-handed, my trainer even says I don't have enough contact and she thinks it's the bit, but only time and practice will tell.
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post #5 of 32 Old 09-20-2010, 01:31 AM
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I prefer bits. That being said, I go with what a horse needs, not what I prefer. The horse I used to lease was introduced to me with a western hackamore. I found he was dull in the bridle with a ton of resistance on his part. I ride light handed, always have. He just wasn't getting the message. The woman who had owned him previously only rode her horses in hacks. She felt that all bits were inhumane. When this horse bolted on her several times, she turned him over to my friend who in turn leased him out to me. The first thing I did was chuck that hack in the garbage. He now rides on a reining bit and barely needs a bit at all. He's a totally different horse.

The mare that is coming in for training on tuesday has a very low palate and probably will not tolerate a bit very well. Ill start her in a bosal and go from there. If she does well in the bosal, that's what she will ride in. If she doesnt, I suppose I will try to find a bit to accomodate her mouth. If that's not possible, Ill consider bitless bridles.
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post #6 of 32 Old 09-20-2010, 04:23 AM
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Like I said, if the bitless works for your horse, go for it :)
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post #7 of 32 Old 09-21-2010, 11:21 PM
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I have seen bits used properly. But I've also seen horses that are deemed "unsafe" because they are fighting the bit/riders hands. I personally never ride my horses in a bit. My trainer and I are going to try to get me to do a dressage pattern bridleless entirely. To me, less equipment but the same amount of control is a sign of good partnership with your horse as well as good communication. Just my opinion.
Thank you for mentioning your thread!
And kudos to you for looking up ways to help your horse after you found out about the palate thing!
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post #8 of 32 Old 09-21-2010, 11:30 PM
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Most important is the horse's comfort whether that is in a bit or bitless. I am not for or against either one of them. I train in bits because that's what I know best, I ride in bits because that's where I have the best feel. Fortunately, I don't have any horses that don't go well in a bit. Regardless of what you put on their head, if someone has harsh hands, then even the mildest of headgear can become a torture device.

Always remember that feeling of looking at a big, open country over the ears of a good horse, seeing a new trail unwind ahead of you, and that ever-spectacular view from the top of the ridge!!! Follow my training blog: http://robertsontraining.blogspot.com/
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post #9 of 32 Old 09-23-2010, 01:29 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BitlessForHappiness View Post
I have seen bits used properly. But I've also seen horses that are deemed "unsafe" because they are fighting the bit/riders hands. I personally never ride my horses in a bit. My trainer and I are going to try to get me to do a dressage pattern bridleless entirely. To me, less equipment but the same amount of control is a sign of good partnership with your horse as well as good communication. Just my opinion.
Thank you for mentioning your thread!
And kudos to you for looking up ways to help your horse after you found out about the palate thing!
I agree about the "less equipment" thing. I'm working on getting Bella's head down without a device. Funny thing is, (I may have mentioned this) she collected right away when I rode her in a halter.

This is also my fear (mentioned above) that the bit will become a torture device for Bella if I force it. I tried, yesterday, a Myler Comfort snaffle and she just did not like it. I didn't expect her to just take to it and be cured, but she reacted the same way she does with any bit. The only thing I haven't tried yet is a mullen snaffle, but no one around here has one.

I got the Micklem, the hackamore and the Pee Wee bit today. Because the hackamore sits higher than a bit I had to take the headstall home to punch more holes so it will fit. The micklem, I fitted it to her, but it's so stiff. I conditioned that tonight and it's much more pliable now. Long story short, I ran out of daylight today. Tomorrow - it's all about Bella!
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post #10 of 32 Old 09-23-2010, 01:37 AM
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Quote:
My trainer and I are going to try to get me to do a dressage pattern bridleless entirely.
Funny, I can do exactly that on my usually bitted horse. I can also gallop, stop and do haunches turns, rollbacks, and pole patterns sans bridle.
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Last edited by wild_spot; 09-23-2010 at 06:25 PM.
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